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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN OF MATHEMATICS
the lines we may see that the differences are due to Abel's
modesty. At first Abel feared his project of interesting Crelle
was fated to go on the rocks. Crelle could not make out what the
young man wanted, who he was, or anything about him. But at
Crelle's question as to what Abel had read in mathematics
things brightened up considerably. When Abel mentioned the
works of the masters he had studied Crelle became instantly
alert. They had a long talk on several outstanding unsettled
problems, and Abel ventured to spring his proof of the impossi-
bility of solving the general quintic algebraically on the unsus-
pecting Crelle. Crelle wouldn't hear of it; there must be some-
thing wrong with any such proof. But he accepted a copy of the
paper, thumbed through it, admitted the reasoning was beyond
him - and finally published Abel's amplified proof in his
Journal. Although he was a limited mathematician with no
pretensions to scientific greatness, Crelle was a broad-minded
man, in fact, a great man.
Crelle took Abel everywhere, showing him off as the finest
mathematical  discovery yet made.  The  self-taught  Swiss
Steiner - the greatest geometer since Apollonius' - sometimes
accompanied Crelle and Abel on their rounds. When Crelle's
friends saw him coming with his two geniuses in tow they would
exclaim 'Here comes Father Adam again with Cain and AbeL*
The generous sociability of Berlin began to distract Abel
from his work and he fled to Freiburg where he could concen-
trate. It was at Freiburg that he hewed his greatest work into
shape, the creation of what is now called Abel's Theorem. But
he had to be getting on to Paris to meet the foremost French
mathematicians of the day - Legendre, Cauchy, and the rest.
It can be said at once that Abel's reception at the hands of
the French mathematicians was as civil as one would expect
from distinguished representatives of a very civil people in a
eery civil age. They were all very civil to him - damned civil,
in fact, and that was about all that Abel got out of the visit to
which lie had looked forward with such ardent hopes, Of course
they did not know who or what he was. They made only per-
functory efforts to find out. If Abel opened his mouth - when
be got within talking distance of them - about his own work,
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